Her assertion that the administration’s commitment “that every family has access to a quality education that prepares their children for success in life” is hardly a new idea. Nor is the objective that all children achieve to their full potential an original idea. The Secretary acknowledged in her column Virginia’s “reputation and overall high performance” but claimed that there has been “a recent slip in comparison with other states on a range of academic achievement measures.” I share her concern that there was a decline in educational attainment during the pandemic in Virginia and in every school system in the country. Likewise there has been a challenge among all school systems about the achievement gap among minority students. We need to look truthfully where Virginia schools were when the new administration came to town.
According to WalletHub (WalletHub.com), a company that specializes in complex statistical analyses, Virginia had the 4th best schools in the Nation in 2022 based on 32 key metrics they considered. Only Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Jersey had better scores on quality and safety of schools than Virginia. Intelligent.com used key metrics related to performance, safety, community, investment, class size, and attendance for all 50 states and ranked Virginia 5th in academic performance and 6th overall of the best schools in the Nation. Scholaroo.com used 42 key indicators to compare school systems across the country, and they ranked Virginia as the 5th best among all the factors.
How were Virginia schools on the wrong track that needed to be righted? One big criticism the administration made of school programs was the emphasis on equity, the effort to have all students succeed in their academic work. They also used the conservative dog-whistle of critical race theory that only persons with the most active imaginations could see. They also lamented the few charter schools in the state as being a weakness regardless of the broad range of choices in the public schools. Governor Youngkin named the Wyoming State Superintendent, Jillian Balow, to the same job in Virginia. She comes with a reputation of being opposed to critical race theory wherever it may exist or be imagined to exist. Wyoming schools ranked 20th, 33rd, and 24th on the three rankings used above for Virginia schools.
Secretary Guidera ended her opinion column by declaring that “Youngkin has achieved his Day 1 agenda.” On Governor Youngkin’s Day 1, he had only a political impression of the schools in Virginia clouded by his conservative ideology. Now that the amazing accomplishments of Virginia public schools have been made obvious, the Governor and his staff should not de-rail a system that was on track for student success long before they took office.